(a) Statement of the problem. Although organizational climate has received considerable attention since WWII, the outcomes of the organization’s affective dimension have seldom been studied. We test whether levels of psychological distress in members of work teams are affected by the teams affective climate. We expect that the affective environment in which workers have to perform on a daily basis, plays a significant role in the development of psychological distress, both as a main effect and in interaction with stressful working conditions.

(b) Method. We use hierarchical logistic regression to analyze data on 1,098 workers formally organized in 97 teams in a car factory in Belgium. Each team is coordinated by a team coach and is responsible for a certain part of assembling the car along the assembly line. The organization of the team is based on the principle of self-management. The team is the most proximal work environment at which the organizational climate functions. Affective team climate is measured using a 4-item scale, and it is assessed at both the individual worker (perceived climate) and the team level (aggregation of individual perceptions). Stressful working conditions are measured based on scales for job demands, job control and superior support. Psychological distress is measured using the GHQ-12. We also control for gender and age.

(c) Analyses and results. Our analyses show that the affective climate within a team, emerging from and reproduced within every day social interaction between team members, has a significant role of its own in the well-being of team members. There are three main findings. One, workers with a positive perception of the affective climate in the team, report less psychological distress. Two, when the affective team climate is positive, everyone within the team benefits, even those team members who hold a negative perception of their emotional work environment. Three, part of the health effects of shared positive climate perceptions runs through buffering the health damaging effects of high job demands.

(d) Practical and theoretical implications.
In this paper, we claim the need for a strengthened research agenda on the interaction between classic micro-level job stress models (such as the job demand/control (DCS) model) and meso-level organizational characteristics. In the few occupational health studies that have incorporated organizational features, DCS have been assessed as group characteristics derived from aggregated individual assessments. We incorporated affective team climate as a group characteristic, and approached it both from the individual worker’s perception and the team members’ shared perception of it. Although organizational climate research has a long tradition, this double approach has seldom been taken. Our findings suggest that the individual’s perception of his emotional work environment, but also team climate as an emergent group property, play their own role in the mental health of workers. Future research needs to unravel which formal and informal processes between team members shape the team’s affective climate and through which causal mechanisms this climate influences worker’s health. Within this context, the relation between affective climate and the support received by colleagues and supervisor forms a specific theoretical challenge. Our findings suggest that organizations should invest in a positive affective team climate, as it forms both an individual and organizational asset. To our knowledge, this is the first multilevel study to analyze the impact of affective team climate on psychological distress in team members.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProtecting and Promoting Total Worker Health
Place of PublicationLos Angeles, USA
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2013
EventThe 10th International Conference on Occupational Stress and Health - Los Angeles, United States
Duration: 16 May 201319 May 2013


ConferenceThe 10th International Conference on Occupational Stress and Health
CountryUnited States
CityLos Angeles

    Research areas

  • Psychological distress, team workers

ID: 2361020